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Posted April 18, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Chalet Jean-Baptiste: Lack of happiness should not determine longevity of marriage

By Chalet Jean-Baptiste

Last Friday, I was sitting at home trying to decide whether to clean my house or make a long-awaited dinner for my family when my friend Kelly called. She was going to catch an early morning movie to see Tyler Perry's latest movie "Temptation." As much as I love Tyler Perry, especially for his depiction of Madea, I was in no mood to see a movie about a cheating spouse. However, it wasn't too often that I have the opportunity to get out of the house without the kids. I resisted the temptation to do some much-needed spring cleaning and headed to Potomac Mall.

"Temptation" was so much more than a movie. It exemplifies this generation's never-satisfied, always-searching-for-more inner gratification with one's life and an almost blasé attitude about marriage. Marriage, like parenting, has no exact rulebook. Every marriage has its own rules. I'm a dreamer and believe in love - so the traditional marriage that involves fidelity, commitment, compromise fits me well. But, marriage, like a career, requires attention and hard work. I've never understood when couples said they were getting divorced simply because they were unhappy.

I'm sure that this was only a piece of the story, but just being unhappy seems too easy. Dictionary.com states that "happiness means the quality or state of being happy." Therefore, happiness is a state of mind, not a condition of the soul or spirit. Happiness does not have transcendent qualities; it is all about the present state of being. If this is true, then one can, presumably, fall in and out of happiness, as one can fall in and out of love. This should not determine the validity or, most importantly, the longevity of a marriage.

Happiness is not the root, but gets all the blame. And, dangerously so, can lead to the destruction of many marriages. In the movie, the main character, Judith, has a good life and a good husband. When good was not good enough (thanks to a handsome billionaire who takes an interest in her), she begins to examine her own happiness. Her decisions lead to her ultimate demise and the end of what could have been a true love story, with a happy ending.

Of course, the movie has some melodramatic moments and, in true Tyler Perry style, the bad guy always pays for his actions in a very public way. God knows, I wish this were true. I do believe we all reap what we sow, even if we don't get to see the result of those who have hurt us. Hopefully, by then, we've gotten to a place where we have either forgiven or forgotten.

Perry released a statement saying, "I want this movie to speak to marriage and to the right decisions and to the wrong decisions. You're only gonna get 80 percent of what you need in a marriage. And here comes somebody offering 20 percent and 20 percent looks like a whole lot when you're not getting it. So you end up leaving 80 percent to get 20 percent, you don't realize it till you're in the 20 what you gave up." Well said, Mr. Tyler, well said!

Kelly and I were fuming about the way the movie ended because we are both hopeless romantics. I must admit that not all endings are happy, and I've learned to be OK with that, too. As long as you have those intangible things that make life worth living, you can always find your way back.

Chalet Jean-Baptiste is an assistant professor of English at the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Email her at info@nvdaily.com


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